High Uinta Wilderness/Domestic Sheep

Overgrazing in the Uinta Mountains of Utah|Y2U staff and volunteers surveying overgrazing in the Uinta Mountains|The area used by sheep is the less stable shale on the left. Sheep bedding, grazing, trailing, loss of ground cover all are happening on the left. This area should not be grazed, but is.|Y2U staff and volunteers surveying overgrazing in the Uinta Mountains|||| Overgrazing in the Uinta Mountains of Utah|Y2U staff and volunteers surveying overgrazing in the Uinta Mountains|The area used by sheep is the less stable shale on the left. Sheep bedding, grazing, trailing, loss of ground cover all are happening on the left. This area should not be grazed, but is.|Y2U staff and volunteers surveying overgrazing in the Uinta Mountains|||| |Jason Christensen||Jason Christensen||||

Status

The Uinta Wilderness covers 453,860 acres with 272,768 acres currently being grazed by domestic sheep and cattle (the rest is inaccessible for livestock grazing).  There is a total of 30 active grazing allotments and 11 that have been closed to livestock grazing. Current authorized numbers include over 10,000 cattle and 45,000 domestic sheep.  These allotments are grazed during the summer months annually.  In 2018, Y2U organized a coalition of environmental groups and interested individuals to address 11 domestic sheep grazing allotments that are being analyzed by the FS for permit renewal in the High Uinta Wilderness.  All the allotments conflict with native bighorn sheep.  Y2U has met with the Regional Forester, the Forest Supervisors, and other FS staff members on more than one occasion to delineate our concerns and recommendations.  The currently grazed 272,768-acre area is habitat for Canada lynx, wolverine, bighorn sheep, black bears, cougars and many other species.  It also provides a significant water source for much of Utah and Southeast Idaho.  In September 2018, Dr. John Carter, Y2U staff ecologist, presented to the Intermountain Regional Forester, Uinta-Wasatch-Cache Forest Supervisor, several district rangers and staff the Forage Capacity & Stocking Rate Determination For High Uintas Wilderness Domestic Sheep, an analysis completed by Y2U and Wild Utah Project, which shows a capacity for stocking at 10 percent of the current rate on these High Uinta Wilderness domestic sheep allotments.  The FEIS for these permit renewals will be released around March of 2020.  In March of 2020, Dr. Carter and his colleagues at Wild Utah Project published the Spatial Analysis of Livestock Grazing and Forest Service Management in the High Uintas Wilderness, Utah which can be found here: https://www.yellowstoneuintas.org/images/pdfs-doc/UintaSheep_SpatialAnalysis_JGIS_03_20_2020.pdf.  Upon release Y2U will address whether the FEIS adequately analyzed the potential environmental impacts of the project and addressed potential alternatives.  Y2U will file an Objection if the FEIS does not adequately analyze the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and potential alternatives.  Y2U will be seeking legal representation to litigate the continuation of domestic sheep grazing in the High Uinta Wilderness.  We will also prepare articles for media to expose the issues with domestic sheep grazing in the High Uinta Wilderness.  Our work is intended to show the impact of current stocking rates, which are far too high, and designed to put pressure on the FS and permittees to support voluntary permit retirements thru buyouts.  The full set of comments can be found below.

Work Plan

  • Upon release, Y2U will address whether the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) adequately analyzed the potential environmental impacts of the project and addressed potential alternatives.
  • Y2U will file an Objection if the FEIS does not adequately analyze the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project and potential alternatives.
  • Y2U will be seeking legal representation to litigate the continuation of domestic sheep grazing in the High Uinta Wilderness.
  • Prepare articles for media to expose the issues with domestic sheep grazing in the High Uinta Wilderness.

Expected Outcome

Optimistically, the Bighorn Sheep risk analysis will result in Forest Service recommendation to close some allotments.  Our work is intended to show the impact of current stocking rates, which are far too high, and designed to put pressure on the Forest Service and permittees to support voluntary permit retirements thru buyouts.